Having finally read THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, it’s no surprise Katherine Applegate snagged a Newbery for this book. Ivan, a carefree gorilla, has spent aHaving finally read THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, it’s no surprise Katherine Applegate snagged a Newbery for this book. Ivan, a carefree gorilla, has spent almost his entire life on display at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Humans watch him through his glass windows. His drawings–Ivan is quite the artist–are purchased in the gift shop. He doesn’t miss the jungle much, because he rarely thinks about it. And while he doesn’t have any gorilla friends, he does have Stella (a wise, elderly elephant), and Bob (a blunt, stray dog who roams the mall). But when baby elephan Ruby joins their show, everything changes.
I can’t do this book justice. It just needs to be read–by children and adults alike. The best I can do is liken it to Charlotte’s Web. Each animal has a distinct personality and voice. They work together to try and carve out a better life for a newcomer. Humans are portrayed as both the enemy and the savor, but in many cases, something in between. I bawled reading this one–both happy and sad tears. Read it, read it, read it.
I read (and loved) Catherynne Valente’s THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING last year. When I discovered this sequel waI read (and loved) Catherynne Valente’s THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING last year. When I discovered this sequel was coming out, I may or may not have done a little happy dance.
The FAIRYLAND books are truly a work of art: imaginative, rich, and magical; a modern Alice in Wonderland meets The Wizard of Oz. This sequel brings familiar characters back into the spotlight, but September faces some bigger battles in this tale. It’s a bit darker, with even more focus on growing up and that loss of innocence as a child toes the line between youth and adolescence. I thoroughly enjoyed this entire novel, but it was the final line that got me crying. Peter Pan, anyone?
A tale so beautifully entrancing I want to crawl into the book and live in the margins.
Sometimes you want to read a book because of the title alone. YA tale so beautifully entrancing I want to crawl into the book and live in the margins.
Sometimes you want to read a book because of the title alone. You see the cover art next, and you want to read it because of that, too. Then you take a gander at the jacket copy and think, “Ooh, this sounds promising,” and then you start reading and several pages in you know you’ve got something special on your hands and delay reading the book each time you sit down to open it simply because you don’t want it to end. Ever.
That was my experience with this book. It is beautifully written, with an obvious Alice in Wonderland meets The Wizard of Oz feel, but it is entirely unique and original at the same time. Twelve-year-old September is bored with her life when the jolly Green Wind comes rolling into her bedroom atop a leopard and invites her to Fairyland, where of course she has a grand adventure and meets a loveable cast of characters including, but not limited to, a Wyvern, Golem, Marquess, Marid, Fairy, Spriggan, and gleaming lantern.
The writing. Oh, my, the writing. Everything about this book is stunning. I knew, just a handful of pages in, that Ms. Valente could take me anywhere and I would absolutely believe, buy, and fall in love with the path she chose. You feel this book. Taste it. Hear it. See it as plainly as if it were before your very eyes. I could blab all day, but I think the best way to showcase the magic of this book is to share some of my favorite quotes with you. I was sticky-noting the heck out of this book while I read.
“All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.” (p4)
“Hats change everything. September knew this with all her being…For one day, her father had put on a hat with golden things on it and suddenly he hadn’t been her father anymore, he had been a soldier, and he had left. Hats have power. Hats can change you into someone else.” (p26)
“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.” (p36)
“When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. This does not mean it is brighter and lovelier; it just means that sweet kindly home suffers in comparison to tarted-up foreign places with all their jewels on.” (p50)
“Though you can have grief without adventure, you cannot have adventure without grief.” (p68)
“I suppose you think you know what autumn looks like…The trees go all red and blazing orange and gold, and wood fires burn at night so that everything smells of crisp branches. The world rolls about delightfully in a heap of cider and candy and apples and pumpkins, and cold stars rush by through wispy, ragged clouds, past a moon like a boney knee.” (p129)
"That’s what a map is, you know. Just a memory.” (p169)
“Shoes are funny beasts. You think they’re just clothes, but really, they’re alive. They want things. Fancy ones with gems want to go to balls, big boots want to go to work, slippers want to dance. Or sleep. Shoes make the path you’re on. Change your shoes, change your path.” (p187)
“When little ones say they want to go home, they almost never mean it. They mean they are tired of this particular game and would like to start another.” (p205)
“That’s what happens to friends, eventually. They leave you. It’s practically what they’re for.” (p233)
SEE? I think I swooned my entire way through this book. So vivid, so smooth.
In addition to the fantastic prose, the story is the best kind of adventure, with twists and turns and surprises. September is a stubborn, but strong lead, sharp and resourceful and loyal to her friends. She is not afraid to question things and she speaks her mind. And her main companion in this book – a Wyvern (or dragon) named A-Through-L because his mother is a library – is both as charming as he is entertaining. I found I enjoyed him as much as Taggle in Plain Kate. And the villain. The Marquess is deliciously evil. My heart was flitting about when she made her grand entrance. I loved every minute of this book.
I saw a copy this book in the audio book section of my library (after reading a physical copy), and thought to myself, “How on earth could that possibI saw a copy this book in the audio book section of my library (after reading a physical copy), and thought to myself, “How on earth could that possibly have translated?” This is one of those books you must hold in your hands. The illustrations are beautiful and sometimes you flip through dozens of them before you return to text. I loved how these visuals told the story. In my opinion, they often told it more convincingly than the actual words. I enjoyed the experience of this novel – the mystery, the drawings, the unique page layout – but I felt the writing itself was a little flat. I never felt fully attached to the characters, and I was turning pages not always to find out the rest of their story, but to see it.
So I’ll say this: Hugo is an experience. Selznick is an incredibly talented illustrator and visual storyteller. This novel is formatted in a unique and completely satisfying visual manner. Writing aside, that experience alone is reason to pick up the book in my opinion. Don’t be intimidated by the 500+ pages, either. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a thick book, so quickly.